Even the name brings goosebumps to my arms.  It’s one of those words that I feel like I have to utter in hushed, reverent tones.  Honeyrun is the towering mountain on the Chico Wildflower bike ride.

We go way back and my memories of Honeyrun are anything but sweet.  There was the time I couldn’t ride all the way to the top and had to hoof it for miles.  Then there was the time my pants kept falling down, showing a full moon in broad daylight.  These memories are punctuated by frustrated grunts and unchurchly words spewed while my legs and lungs threatened to collapse.

Today I faced Honeyrun again.  The morning was cool and the fog that sometimes masks the valley below was nowhere to be found.  I’d begun the ride early enough that I had Honeyrun mostly to myself.  I dropped into my lowest gear, spinning slow, careful circles, craning my neck to see the pieces of the valley that had previously been kept secret from me.  The green of the trees was the deep green of growth, of roots pressing down into the soil and drinking deep.  Everything was hushed, save for the quiet rhythm of my legs pressing and pulling my pedals.

Each year, people spray paint messages over the gritty asphalt of the road.  This year someone had spray painted the words “hope and serenity”.  As the words passed underneath my tires, I pondered them, savored them in my mouth like a rich chocolate.  Amazingly enough, I was not out of breath and I chatted with other cyclists who passed me or the occasional cyclist that I happened to pass.  But mostly I kept to the quiet of my mind, thinking of hope and serenity.

I thought of how I hoped the crest of the hill was just around the next corner.  I thought of how serene Honeyrun really is before she is crushed by throngs of neon clad cyclists, carving her corners and cursing her voluptuous hills.  I thought of how hope is hard to have in the envelope of grief.  I thought of how serenity has eluded me so much of the year.  And yet here they were, serenity and hope, rising up from the pavement to greet me on Honeyrun.

Further up someone had painted the Olympic rings and the Olympic Creed “Citius, Altius, Fortius.”  Swifter.  Higher.  Stronger.  I know the Olympic Creed because my grandmother and I talked about it during the last winter games.  I wished I could send her a picture of the Olympic motto, painted yellow against the black asphalt.  How appropriate to be pressed with being swifter, higher and stronger here on this particular road that was carrying me higher until I touched the top of the treeline.  And the simple act of turning the cranks over again and again was making me stronger right here, right now.  As for swifter, well there’s just no hope of that.

And there I was again, thinking of hope and serenity.  I thought of how serene my grandmother looked when she was asleep and I kissed her goodnight one last time.  I thought of Psalm 31:24.  “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.”  I thought of how my heart was keeping time so effortlessly up this climb.

Before I knew it all of this thinking and pedaling brought the crest within sight.  I was sorry to leave the beauty of the valley, sorry to turn onto a regular road void of words to ponder.  I looked over my shoulder at Honeyrun splayed out behind me and for a second I thought about riding back down and pressing up that mountain again.  Instead I took my heart, full of hope and serenity, and pedaled to the top, making sure my pedal strokes were just a little bit swifter than before.

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